The Archives and Special Collections Department of Santa Clara University houses an extensive collection of Montgomery materials, including the photos in this digital collection, correspondence, plans for the aircraft he designed, and models. It also includes family records and correspondence, material on the Montgomery patent controversies, and research material on early aviation. For a full description of the the collection’s contents, visit the J.J. Montgomery Finding Aid at the Online Archive of California.
John J. Montgomery
It seems impossible to imagine a world without flight, without the ability to travel across the planet in mere hours, without giant mechanical birds called planes soaring 30000 feet in the sky. But a little over a century ago the concept of flight was blasphemous; it was so far outside all ideas of thought that even trying to rationalize it would result in weird looks and back-handed comments.
However, John J. Montgomery was never fazed by spiteful bystanders or naysayers. Rather he let his work speak for him, creating some of the most important early advancements in the field of aeronautics. Though mostly forgotten, and overshadowed by other pioneers of flight, Montgomery was vital in the creation and progression of early aircrafts. His resilience and his ability to take his failures in stride changed the world in unimaginable ways.
Montgomery began his work in the field of aeronautics in the early 1880s. At the turn of the century he relocated to the Santa Clara area and took a position at Santa Clara College. At the school he was able to make crucial advancements in his work and had the assistance of the entire college, allowing him to perform extensive testing. His work was integral for the commercialization of planes as well as their implementation into World War I and beyond.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Montgomery is the sense of wonder and desire for exploration he inspired in those that watched his planes in action. His work showed the world that anything is possible, and that a failure cannot stop a person from achieving their goals.
This collection of Montgomery material documents various stages of Montgomery’s work, from his earlier trials around California to his commercial flight shows, and to the experimental trials preceding his untimely passing.